Our theme for the month of February is “color.”

I’ve started reading my friends’ color auras. The first was pink.

Pink was the first color of life on earth. So says the Smithsonian. It makes sense that the first cry of color in the world would be pink as a baby’s tongue. 

An aura is just an impression of a color I associate with a person, and it’s not real aura-reading, probably. It’s not a sixth sense or anything. I was painting in watercolors practically before I could talk, and the habits of pigments are as familiar to me as the accents of my family.

The auras don’t change like a mood ring. Sometimes, they are more than one color simultaneously, though. 

I turned to my friend in Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop one Saturday night in December, when we were both sober as the sulky sleet coming down outside. I said, “You have a pink and gold aura.”

She laughed. She has a thoroughly unique laugh, a grapefruit-in-champagne laugh—bubbles, bite, and class. It’s kind of her signature. If I was any good at imitations, I wouldn’t try to imitate her voice, I would do her laugh. Laughter is a pink sound if ever there was one. 

Apparently, “pink noise” is a real thing similar to “white noise.” The color of sound is determined not by people doing mushrooms as one might expect, but by how the energy of the sound is distributed over frequencies or how “even” the noise sounds to our human ear. Pink noise is supposedly everything from the lap of waves to heartbeats. It has an ebb and flow. White noise, in comparison, is a steady hum. Do the frequencies of these sounds somehow correlate to the spectrum of light? Or is there a scientist somewhere listening to hours and hours of ceiling fans and gently falling rain before pronouncing, “sounds fuchsia to me”? I think the latter. 

That’s kind of how I come up with auras. My friend with the pink and gold aura wanted to know what those colors meant. “It’s just a feeling,” I said. But I tried to parse out the pieces of her that made her pink and gold. 

As far as I can tell, here’s how you read an aura: 

  1. Determine the energy of the person, like with sound. Low energy people are on the cold side of the spectrum. High-energy people are warm. My friend hums with an energy of innocent secrets and goodwill; she reflects it into rooms; she warms conversations by telling stories.
  2. Liberally apply filters of association and cultural symbolism. Pink and white are the colors of innocence, of girls, of love. My friend is the kind of girl that wears floral dresses and drinks her coffee sweet. She is always in love or about to be.

She made a big deal out of a flippant compliment. We’re all kind of obsessed with who we might be perceived to be. I can’t go a week without hearing about the Enneagram or getting baited into letting Buzzfeed guess which Avenger I would marry based on my shampoo scent preferences. The aura thing is just another way I participate in this need to name and be named. 

Pink, at least in watercolor painting, is not a saturated color like yellow ochre. That’s the color I would want for an aura because you can’t erase graphite from underneath it. Most watercolor pigments will let you erase your pencil outline. Not Yellow Ochre. Bright, ancient, and stubborn—that’s what I want to be. 

Pink is a hint of something probably from ochre, bark, or beetles mixed with a lot of white paint and water. My friend is not a saturated person; she is becoming. We all are. We pull subtle hues into ourselves from our friends and environments. Every time we are told something about ourselves it means something; we mix it in. Which is why I think at least eighty percent of personality test results are aspirational.

I was inevitably teased into telling some of my other friends their auras.

“That’s such a witchy thing to say,” they said. 

It’s a running gag that I am of otherworldly origins or hobbies. I protest, but I’m playing into it with the whole aura thing. I am delighted to be odd. I live into their names and categories for me. 

We’re a fairly independent bunch, our generation. But love being told our Hogwarts House and Myers-Briggs type. We want to be known. Moreover, we want to be explained. 

Maybe it is because we all moved away from home just when we were getting interesting. So, the folks who raised us never really got a chance to see the “real” us. 

As an artist, the desire to be known is tied up in the desire to know. Expression and exploration are linked.

The pink color in lobsters and other shellfish comes from astaxanthin, a pigment in their shells which turns pink in response to being boiled for consumption.

As I write about my friends, am I activating their astaxanthin—some bright pigment that bubbles to the surface in the energy of observation? Do I crack them open, looking for the meat of their stories? 

That’s the temptation with writing, painting, and the rest of the stuff you are supposed to do in life: there’s a part of the job that is literally reducing and flattening—turning people into things. I don’t want to be the kind of artist that crushes people like beetles until they bleed colors for me to use. But I might be.

1 Comment

  1. Kyric Koning

    “We are all becoming.” Such a delightful line. A great piece here. Especially apt for the theme. Beautiful, and a little menacing at the end, but such warnings are important too.


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